BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - With less than five minutes to go, Mike Carey had his West Virginia squad on the verge of the program’s first second-round NCAA tournament victory in school history.
Suddenly, Mountaineer shots started going anywhere but in the hoop, and the players in LSU purple and gold seemed to swarm to every rebound.
Second-seeded West Virginia found itself the victim of a stunning 18-4 run by seventh-seeded LSU during the final 4:53, and the Lady Tigers seized a 76-67 victory Tuesday night, denying the Mountaineers a spot in the Sweet 16.
“We quit getting the ball inside,” Carey said. “We won 30 basketball games this season but we felt like we gave one away here tonight. When we took the lead initially we were getting the ball inside. Then all of a sudden we turned the ball over some and took some bad perimeter shots. We also turned the ball over way too much and we just quit rebounding.”
Asya Bussie had 21 points and Bria Holmes 12 for West Virginia (30-5), which fell to 0-8 all time in second-round games. But like Georgia Tech before them, the Mountaineers struggled to deny Danielle Ballard, LSU’s dynamic sophomore guard, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds. WVU also could not ultimately capitalize on LSU’s foul trouble.
LSU appeared to be on its heels when Bussie’s free throw made it 63-56 and capped a stretch in which WVU scored 13 of 15 points at the foul line.
Ballard responded with runner, sparking a 6-0 run that pulled LSU back to 63-62 with 3:30 left.
A day earlier, Carey had said he liked his team’s chances in a close game with four minutes left, because WVU had been so solid closing out games all season.
Not this time.
“We just lost our focus and weren’t defending,” Bussie said. “Just down the stretch, we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do.”
By contrast, LSU survived having two its best front court players, Theresa Plaisance and McKiney, on the bench with four fouls each with 12 minutes left.
That allowed WVU to exploit mismatches with its top interior players, Bussie and Holmes, who combined for 10 points during a 16-2 run that gave the Mountaineers a 57-50 lead.
McKiney returned with about nine minutes left and Plaisance with 6:40 to go. Plaisance finished with nine rebounds and eight points in 28 minutes, and LSU outrebounded WVU 55-40.
West Virginia also hurt itself with poor shooting, hitting 19 of 63 from the field (30.2 percent).